What to do with unwanted gifts...

It always happens. You get two pairs of Santa socks in your stocking and you want to take one pair back to Primark and spend the 20p on a Freddo instead. But can you? Behold Bitterwallet’s seasonal guide to returning retail goods.

First of all, if you are the giftee, not the gifter, you have not purchased anything, and do not have any statutory rights even if you are given the receipt.

However, where the purchaser wants to return an item, by law shoppers are only owed a refund or exchange where a product is:

>  not fit for purpose;

>  not as described; or

>  of unsatisfactory quality

Note that for normal, in-person sales, there is no statutory obligation for the store to offer you a refund or even a credit note should you simply change your mind; the product has to be faulty in some way. However, most stores do have returns policies over and above the statutory (bare) minimum, just don’t moan if this is only 14 days after purchase or they only offer a credit note. Some even offer extended returns for purchases bought in December, and possibly even earlier- check your receipt for details. Stores will require that returned items are brought back in resaleable condition though- and with no law to back you up, getting shirty at an assistant who refused your trashed packaging won’t get you anywhere.

However, you do have more rights for good bought online. These items are covered by the distance-selling regulations and you are allowed to change your mind. The rationale behind this is that, when you receive the goods, this is likely the first time you have seen the item, so it may not be as you imagined. Or perhaps you fancy the postman and are just ordering random goods you don't need in order to see more of him.

If you do want to return an online item that is not faulty, you have seven working days after the day of receipt in which to cancel the contract. You do not have to return the goods within this period, merely advise the retailer in writing (which includes by email) that you are going to do so. Goods must then be returned within a reasonable period.

If retailers’ terms and conditions specify that you must pay for return postage costs, then they may deduct this from the amount of your refund if you do not pay for it yourself. If their terms do not state this in advance, you do not have to pay them, and under no circumstances can they deduct ‘administration’ or ‘restocking’ fees. Another good reason to actually read the terms and conditions of a website rather than just ticking boxes willy-nilly. They also do not have to wait for the returned item to arrive back before issuing your refund and they must do so within 30 days.

Again, some retailers may have different, extended policies, and if you are using these rather than the statutory terms, they carry on however they like- after all, they are doing you a favour anyway.

Finally, if you are saving yourself for the sales, you have exactly the same statutory rights (eg if goods are faulty or distance selling) on sale goods as on full price ones; however, if the store normally offers extended rights they are at their own liberty to rescind these rights on certain items.



  • Adam
    Thanks for the info. Whilst I knew most of that, it was really useful to be given a reminder.
  • Cake l.
    Hi Adam. Can I please use the Internet now?
  • timmysmallet
    Whats with the Feral Trolley Of The Week?
  • dvdj10
    " They also do not have to wait for the returned item to arrive back before issuing your refund and they must do so within 30 days." This is quite mis-leading. Obviously they don't HAVE to wait for the item to be returned but also they don't HAVE to refund anything straight away which you statement leads to. Why even say that? If you're informed that you won't get your refund straight away and you say "ahh buit you don't have to wait for it to be returned" they're hardly going to just refund you? Retailers can (and will in most cases) only refund on receipt of the item otherwise who's to say you've returned the item? But yer good reminder for everyone, even if it cuts down just one of the ill-advised consumers we receive calls from it's a bonus!
  • Cake w.

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